Tax incentives paid for by closing tax loopholes that promote sending job overseas can help restore U.S. manufacturing, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
"Right now we have an excellent opportunity to bring manufacturing back -- but we have to seize it," Obama said in a statement before traveling to Master Lock Co. in Milwaukee to showcase companies bringing jobs back to the United States.
The padlock and security-products maker has returned about 100 union jobs to its Milwaukee factory since mid-2010.
"My message to business leaders is simple," Obama said. "Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed."
Obama was expected to announce at Master Lock the Commerce Department would hold its first annual SelectUSA Investment Summit this year, the White House said.
The summit would bring foreign company executives to the United States "to meet with governors, mayors and local stakeholders, federal agencies, and state and local economic-development organizations to discuss the benefits of investing and growing in the U.S.," the White House said in a statement.
Obama, who last visited Wisconsin more than a year ago, was to be greeted at the Milwaukee airport at 11:30 a.m. CST by embattled Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who faces a state recall -- largely because of his move last year to ended collective-bargaining rights for most public workers.
Walker was then to accompany the president on the Master Lock factory tour, Walker's office said. Master Lock is unionized, represented by the United Auto Workers.
Obama was to deliver remarks at 12:40 p.m., the White House said.
The factory tour takes place on the one-year anniversary of the first massive protest against Walker's anti-bargaining "budget-repair bill." Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in and around the state Capitol building in Madison Feb. 15, 2011, against the proposal that became law after 4 1/2 months of angry demonstrations, political brinkmanship and legal hostilities.
Master Lock, founded in 1921, began abandoning most Milwaukee operations in 1999 under shareholder pressure to control costs, shipping work to cheaper plants in China and Mexico. The number of U.S. employees dropped to about 270 in 2003 from an estimated 1,300 in 1999.
The heavily automated Milwaukee plant now employs about 410 people, who make components assembled in Mexico. Master Lock continues to contract with three Chinese factories and about 20 Chinese suppliers.
The United States is "on the cusp of another revolution in smart manufacturing," Northwestern University engineering and applied-sciences Dean Julio M. Ottino said, referring to the next generation of manufacturing touted as combining information, technology and human ingenuity.
"I think the manufacturing jobs of the future are going to be high tech and will depend on high talent, not cheap labor," he said in prepared remarks shared with United Press International. "We are seeing advances in materials and technology that will provide the opportunity for custom, on-demand manufacturing. This kind of smart manufacturing is a game changer."